Chapter 87

The Week Before The Third Harvard Game and Red Robertson's Plan

The third Harvard game was next. Centre was 4-0 and Harvard, 3-0.

               Harvard  20          Middlebury  0
               Harvard  20          Holy Cross  0
               Harvard  15           Bowdoin  0

I know that the 1920 and '21 Harvard games drew a lot of interest. But I feel that the '22 game was even bigger, because we had won the previous year, and now it seemed like everyone all over the country wanted to know even more about Centre and Danville if that were possible.

The week leading up to the game, there were reporters from papers all over who were on the campus. It seemed like every time you turned around, there was some reporter wanting to interview not only the coaches and players, but us students, too. They wanted to get some idea of the sort of person who went to school at Centre.

There was a funny incident when somehow a sports writer from the East started interviewing me, thinking I was Red Roberts. He looked confused, and I just answered his questions like I thought Red would.

He asked me what I weighed and said 135. He said he thought I weighed 235, and I told him someone must have made an error. said it wasn't how big a person was, but how determined he was to play tough.

He didn't catch on until some other student gave me away.

I'd have loved to see his story, "135 pounds, and how he can crash the line!"

On the return from Richmond, a very welcome telegram arrived in Danville, sent by the president of the S.I.A.A., Dr. David R. Phillips, announcing that the investigation into the "Shadoan-Gordy affair" had determined that the two young men had not done anything that would jeopardize their amateur status, and "they are thereby deemed eligible for intercollegiate play."

Good news!

While the ruling about Shadoan and Gordy was welcome, the report from the local doctor who looked after the team wasn't.

Tom Bartlett was really sick. The others who had complained on the way back from Richmond seemed to be improving. But Bartlett could hardly swallow due to his tonsils being so swollen. Then to compound things, Hump developed a boil on his leg, and for a while, he looked iffy for the Harvard game In the pre-antibiotic age, tonsillitis and a boil could be of major consequence.

Hump's boil was drained, and it looked like he was going to be available. Tom was gargling a lot of salt water but wasn't progressing at all.

We all went down to the station to meet the team when they came back from Virginia. Every time the guys went on a trip, or returned, it seemed that everyone in town was down at the station, and even though they got back late Sunday night from Richmond, we were all there to cheer them when they got off the platform.

They were like royalty to us.

That night, I decided I was going to the Harvard game. I wasn't exactly sure how I was going to pull it off. I just knew that there was no way I wouldn't be there.

Howard was a member of what was now called the Centre "Six." He played the banjo and mandolin, and the "Six" was going to be paid to play at a function in Boston, so he was in good shape.

Anyhow, I was going to be at the game, even if I had to hop on a freight train, which I'd never done before. Thank goodness I didn't have to, because I'd have probably ended up in Canada, or someplace, who knows where.

On the train ride back from Richmond, Uncle Charlie and Coach Jim Bond had set up a chalk board in the back of the team's Pullman and began diagramming a new type of play which no one on the team had ever seen, much less run.

The Centre coaches had discussed the new scheme with the officials at the VPI game.

They wanted to get an opinion, confidentially of course, as to the legality of what they planned. Two of the game's refs were from Virginia and the other from Michigan.

"Charlie, it may be crazy, but it's legal. We're all pulling for you next week, and won't say a word."

That's all that Uncle Charlie had needed to hear. He hadn't even considered employing the formation against Virginia Tech. That would have removed the important element of surprise.

Uncle Charlie was known everywhere for being an innovator, and had enjoyed that reputation since his earliest days at Texas A&M. However, what he was now planning outstripped anything that he had ever proposed in all of his years of coaching.

"It's called the 'lock-step.' It's legal, and it should be a complete surprise when we put it into action."

The Centre linemen would take their usual positions as would the 4 backs. Then all 7 linemen would stand and either turn left or right, with the last 6 holding their arm on the shoulder of the man in front of him. They would march to the left or right, pause, then turn and march back in the opposite direction. This "marching" may take place more than once, back and forth.

Meanwhile, the backs would follow, moving left or right as the linemen had done. As this movement took place, suddenly one of the linemen would reach down and snap the ball back and off everyone would go.

A contemporary cartoon-diagram illustrated the "lock-step," which was also dubbed the "penitentiary shift," or "chain-gang formation," because the linemen, walking one behind the other, hands on the person in front, resembled a group of convicts being marched along.

Uncle Charlie's brilliant, innovative "Lock-Step"

On the way back from Virginia, Uncle Charlie drilled the team on how they were to employ the new offensive scheme.

"We'll play conservatively the 1st half, just like we did last year. Then we'll unveil the "lock-step" to start the 2nd half. That way, Harvard won't have time to go in at the half and figure out a way to defense us."

"Crazy, Unc" said one of the Colonels.

"Yeah. But crazy like a fox," offered another.

The original plan had been to work in secrecy up in Mansfield, Massachusetts and have 4 practice days to get the new formation down just right. The comments that Howard Reynolds brought down from Princeton had changed everything. Now, the team had a long train ride to the East, and only 2 days of practice to get ready.

I scraped together every cent I could. Howard loaned me some money, but I was still short, so it was over to Cousin Ella who gave me two $20.00 gold pieces from this little purse that she kept hidden away. She'd see me at the door and say, "Oh Red, I bet I'll need to got get my little sequined bag," and off she'd go and come back with money. She was wonderful to me.

However, I still didn't have enough money to buy a ticket on the train and to pay for a hotel and meals. But it didn't matter. I told several people that I was going to get to Boston one way or the other, and word got to Red Roberts that I may stow away on a freight train, and all of a sudden, everything changed. I was up in my room in Breck Hall and heard a lot of shouting. People were saying, "Red. What's happening? Red. It's Red Roberts!"

It was a big deal when Red came into the dorm, because everyone looked up to him so.

I went out to the hall and looked down the stairs and heard Red ask, "Which room does my son live in?"

So Red came up the stairs to the third floor and said, "Son, I hear you're going to hobo your way to Boston," and I said I was if I couldn't come up with enough money to go on the train, and he said, "Here's what we'll do. We'll pack you in a ball bag, and I'll carry you into our Pullman. I'll tell the porter that the bag contains my lucky footballs, and I never let them out of my sight. Then when we get you on, you can just hide under the seat anytime the porter comes around, and you can ride to Boston in the team's Pullman."

Ride in the team's Pullman? I couldn't believe what I was hearing. So I asked Red what would happen if I got caught. I didn't want to get anybody in trouble, and I didn't want to kicked off the train maybe out in the middle of nowhere.

Red said, "Just leave it up to me. I'll take care of everything."

So I decided to do just that. I'd leave it up to Red, and I'd get to Boston, riding in the team's Pullman!

Can you believe that?

Centre practiced the "lock-step" on Monday and Tuesday before the Wednesday departure. Howard Reynolds filed stories from Danville which described "intense workouts," but of course, didn't reveal any of Uncle Charlie's new plans. Reynolds reported, The team was full of spirit and confidence, bolstered by the return of Bill Shadoan and Minos Gordy, two of the standout linemen who played so well in last year's victory.

The Boston pundits were confident that Harvard would win the third game. Coach Fisher was bringing his team along in the traditional Harvard manner, having scheduled and beaten the weaker teams before getting into the meat of the season. After Centre, it was Dartmouth, Florida, Princeton, Brown and Yale.

Centre again had a private Pullman for the trip to Boston. The plan was the same as the previous year. The regularly scheduled Southern train which came through would stop long enough in Danville to allow the Colonels' car to be hooked on, with departure out of Danville for the 103 mile trip to Cincinnati, through Lexington, at 8:30 A.M. Then it would be the responsibility of the New York Central system to complete the haul into Boston.

Everything seemed on schedule. Classes had been cancelled at both Centre and K.C.W. Businesses didn't plan on opening until the Colonels were off, and the usual huge crowd, including Governor Morrow, was at the station ready to stage a boisterous and enthusiastic sendoff.

There was just one problem. In a season when it seemed if something could go wrong, it did.  The Colonels were once again the victims of misfortune. There was no train to connect to. Just south of Danville, a freight train had derailed, blocking the track. Time was critical, because if the Colonels didn't arrive close to right on time in Cincinnati, they'd miss being hooked onto the northbound train to Cleveland.

Red had me get in this duffle bag in the bathroom of the station, and he packed me over his shoulder and several team members gathered around him as he walked through the crowd toward the Pullman. Everyone wanted to greet Red and wish him well, so he put me down and I just laid there like some clump while he mingled with the crowd. Finally, I heard him say, "Let me put my gear on board and I'll be back."

So Red packed me on his shoulder again, and I heard him talking to the porter and tell him that he wanted to stow his gear, me, and then go back to tell everybody goodbye.

Red put me down on the floor in one of the car's sections, right by a vent where heat was coming out, because they were keeping the car warm for the team as it was pretty chilly outside.

I waited and waited. I didn't know that the train had been delayed by a wreck. I had my wool suit on, and the duffle bag was tied at the top. The heat was just pouring out and I thought I was going to die.

Finally, even if I got caught, I had to get out of that bag, or I really felt I would have suffocated.

So I managed to get the drawstring untied and slipped out of the bag and moved down to another section of the car which didn't have a heating vent. Then I heard the porter talking to someone about the wreck and the delay of up to several hours.

I just laid on the floor with my legs in the duffle bag, and anytime I heard footsteps and felt anyone was heading my way, I pulled the duffle bag up around me, and I was real still.

It was a long wait, and I wondered if the whole thing was a good idea after all.

Uncle Charlie tried everything to get to Cincinnati on time. He got the faculty members on the athletic committee, Dr. Allen and Dr. Rainey, to try hiring an engine to get the Pullman to Cincinnati. Governor Morrow joined Allen and Rainey. An offer was made.

"We don't have a fireman available."

"You see that young, strapping fellow over there?"

The governor pointed to Red. "He stoked engines all one summer, on this very railroad. He can shovel the coal."

"We don't have permission to let him do that," was the answer.

"Is there an engine and Pullman available in Lexington if we get a caravan of cars to drive us over there?"

Word came back by telegraph to the station master.

"No Pullman available."

The team waited, some sitting on the stranded Pullman, others milling around the station. One member waited, bundled up in his bed which the porter had prepared. Tom Bartlett was so sick from his infected tonsils that he didn't even feel like sitting up. Uncle Charlie knew it would take a miracle for him to even be able to suit up, much less play in the game.

"He has been a large part of our team in the past, and if he wants to go, even if he never gets to the stadium, he is one of us, and he'll be on the train, even if we have to carry him on."

Four hours after the scheduled departure, at 12:30 in the early afternoon, a whistle was heard and smoke was sighted south of the station, and the train which was to carry the Colonels to Cincinnati finally rolled into Danville.

The delay had thrown everything off. There would be no seamless trip to Boston. The New York Central train in Cincinnati couldn't wait, and when the Colonels crossed the Ohio River, they discovered that their Pullman was going to be shunted onto a siding, because there wasn't another northbound train for over 5 1/2 hours.

The team had planned on arriving in Boston on Thursday morning around 9:30 A.M., checking into the Lenox, and going to Harvard Stadium for a workout after lunch. Now, with connections being missed, they wouldn't make it to Boston until Thursday evening, with the predicted arrival time being 8:30 P.M., 11 hours late and 36 hours after they had left Danville.

The second that the train stopped in Cincinnati, Uncle Charlie hopped off and trotted into the station and was back out and on the team's Pullman in minutes.

"Ok, boys. Grab your gear. We're going to Redland Field to work out."

 What later became Crosley Field was called Redland Field until bought by Powel Crosley in 1934. Tom Bartlett was too sick to practice and Howard Lynch was having trouble with his knee. 

Howard Reynolds quickly completed a dispatch and telegraphed it back to Boston.

Coach Charlie Moran did everything to try and move those in charge of the Southern Railroad in Danville to come to his aid, and to get his team through, so that it would be possible to take the much needed workout in the Stadium tomorrow afternoon, but it was to no avail.

Moran and Danville must feel that this is but another handicap that the Colonels have had to face this year in presenting the best team possible to meet Harvard on Saturday.

As it was, the boys got here in Cincinnati hours late, and had to wait until 6:05 P.M. for the next fast train heading east. Uncle Charlie did not waste time, for he quickly made arrangements to use the National League park for practice, and sent his eleven through a stiff, two hour drill.

This practice will not have the same effect that one tomorrow afternoon at Cambridge would have had. Besides, it means that the boys will be cooped up on the train for a full night and most of the next day before reaching Boston, and will not, in all probability, get to bed at the accustomed hour.

The utter neglect of the railroad to help out on a delicate situation, together with the long trip back to Danville from Richmond and the epidemic of sore throats, will not tend to bring the Centre team into Boston in the best mental attitude for its big game of the year.

When Howard Reynolds had brought the news from Princeton to Richmond about the comments being made that Centre was a school which apparently placed football above the classroom, he was reporting on a situation that wasn't based on any similar, practical experience by those who were complaining.

Traveling was physically tiring. Playing on the road, in hostile territory, was emotionally challenging. The fact that Centre had to compete under these circumstances, and was able to compete successfully, made the little school's record during its glory years all the more outstanding.

The third trip to Boston was just another example of the hardships that the Colonels sometimes faced in order to play in the upper echelons of college football.

As Centre was trying to get to Boston, a columnist wrote an article about what a great draw the Colonels were. Few teams could pack Harvard Stadium, or any stadium in the country, like the boys from Danville.

The first three games that Harvard played in 1922 attracted decent, but hardly capacity, crowds.

               Harvard  –  Middlebury  16,000
               Harvard  –  Holy Cross  30,000
               Harvard  –  Bowdoin  18,000

A Harvard 1922 "season ticket" could be purchased for Middlebury, Holy Cross, Bowdoin, Centre, Florida and Brown for $6.00, or $1.00 per game. Separate tickets would be sold at $2.00 for Dartmouth, and $3.00 for Princeton. Harvard was playing Yale in New Haven in 1922.

If a person didn't have a "season ticket," the Centre game could  be attended  for $2.00 if one was an alumnus of Harvard, as alumni had the first chance to buy, and if any tickets remained, the general public could then also purchase one for $2.00.

The wooden, end zone bleachers had been expanded for the 1922 season, with the intent to have more seats available for Centre, Dartmouth and Princeton. The other games wouldn't need the extra capacity, as the crowds could easily be accommodated in the original, concrete horseshoe.

The additional seats in the end zone bleachers, and the admissions sold atop the roof over the colonnade which rimmed the Stadium, meant that 52,000 spectators could be squeezed into Harvard stadium, an all-time record crowd.

The final 5,000 seats were sold at 9:00 A.M. on the morning before the game, at Wright and Ditson's in downtown Boston, and Leavitt and Peirce's on Harvard Square in Cambridge. The previous evening papers had announced the sale, and lines were stretched for blocks when the doors at both businesses opened on Friday morning.

It was felt that well over 70,000 tickets could have been sold, such was the interest in the game, just as they could have been sold the year before.

The gross receipts for the game can be calculated. There were 52,000 tickets sold. Of those, 37,000 were held by the "season ticket" package of $6.00. Therefore, at $1.00 per game, $37,000 could be credited to Centre's game. Each of the additional 15,000 seats sold for $2.00, which added an additional $30,000.

The gate would have been $67,000, or over $1,100,000 in today's money.

Centre's payment of $15,000 would mean that Harvard cleared over $50,000 before expenses, big money in the era, and the reason that programs all over the country were trying to get the little school from Danville, Kentucky, "wherever that is," to come to their facilities and help fill their stadiums, and coffers.